Sea Level Rise Task Force Wraps Up, Will Urge Jacksonville To Curb Emissions

Aug 26, 2019

Jacksonville’s state mandated sea level rise task force has wrapped up its work, approving the remaining proposals in a list of recommendations that will eventually go before City Council.

The group also agreed to urge the City to reduce its contributions to climate change.

During their last official meeting Monday morning, Adaptation Action Area (AAA) Working Group members approved several new recommendations, including the following:

  1. The City should evaluate private and public development or redevelopment projects that are within the AAA prior to making public expenditures for these projects.
  2. The City shall consider the impact of AAA strategies and regulations on economically distressed communities and seek opportunities to mitigate negative impacts in an equitable manner.
  3. The City should develop and create systems and processes to safeguard local natural environments and ecosystems from an anticipated two foot sea level rise to include, but not be limited to, the removal of invasive non-native vegetation within the AAA to benefit shoreline stabilization and promote preservation, reforestation, and afforestation to increase soil moisture retention, provide shade, and increase habitat for species under stress.

During the meeting, committee chairwoman Emily Pierce also said she would like to see a recommendation urging Jacksonville to participate in city, state, and regional efforts to prepare for climate change and sea level rise. Her fellow committee members agreed to add that recommendation to their list of proposals.

Related: Jacksonville Sea Level Rise Task Force Finalizing Recommendations To Go Before City Council

After the committee finished reviewing recommendations, members Jeff Martin, an associate professor of geography at Jacksonville University, and Shannon Blankinship, Advocacy Director for the St. Johns Riverkeeper, expressed concerns that while the AAA Working Group has discussed at great length how to prepare for the impacts of climate change, it has done little to address the root causes. 

“We should really round in this conversation that our group limited itself to discussing adaptation within this vulnerable land [the AAA], and did not discuss ways to mitigate against future sea level rise via policies about limiting greenhouse gas exposure or all the things that the City can be doing to reduce its impact on climate change at this point,” said Blankinship. “That should be something that is addressed in a future conversation, because I think that the one thing that a lot of people are going to see and read in this report is, immediately, ‘What about the things that we should be doing to limit our impact?’”

Members supported the idea and agreed to include in their final report a recommendation that the City take steps to reduce its emissions.

The original plan was for the committee to compile all of its recommendations into a single document and present them to the City Council as a package. If approved, the proposals were to be added to the City’s 2030 comprehensive plan, a state mandated document that guides growth and development.

But that could mean these recommendations won’t be presented to City Council until late 2020, according to Public Works Director Bill Killingsworth.

So committee members decided three recommendations should be given priority: expanding the boundary of the AAA, establishing an office of resiliency and/or hiring or appointing a chief resilience officer, and securing funding for a proposed vulnerability assessment.

Related: Jacksonville Sea Level Rise Task Force Votes To Expand Area Of Focus

The committee then adjourned for the final time, leaving City staff to put the finishing touches on a completed report that will be presented to Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration, the City Council, and the people of Jacksonville.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.